Monday, July 21, 2008

Travel Log

My job has many good attributes, but one the greatest is that I get the summer off. This year we are making the epic trek out west. If you read my blog and wonder why I have not posted in some time, this is the reason. So far we made the two-day drive and have been staying at my parents house in Sierra Vista, AZ. It has been a pleasant stay, we get a chance to get out town and my parents have a pool, so we can lounge around. I have many historical and political issues that I want to get to, but I am on break and so have been trying my best not to think. I wanted to read a book that I could shut off my mind. My wife gave me Twilight, written by Stephanie Meyer. Twilight is a novel written for teenage girls, but my wife and sister have enjoyed reading the series. Meyer is LDS and has taken the literary world by storm, so I thought it fit what I wanted. It was an interesting read about a girl who falls in love with a vampire. I must admit I enjoyed reading it; it had interesting characters and intriguing story line. I even found myself gripped at the end as the heroes were struggling to deal with the conflict.

To complete my girly week we also saw Mamma Mia. I have already seen the play, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The movie and the play are very similar, a few parts have changed and different people sang different songs, but the movie does a good job following the original story line. I had one major problem as I watch the show. I do not understand casting non-singing actors in singing roles. Directors want big names to draw in money and every actor thinks they can sing, such as Nichole Kidman, Rene Zellwiegger, and the guy who played the phantom in Phantom of the Oprah. My problem is that these actors tend to fail in my opinion. I do not under stand using these actors when stages are full of good voices. Back to Mamma Mia, which may have put forth on of the worst performances with Merle Streep playing one of the leads. No one can question her acting, but she is not a singer. She did sound good when she sang with her back up singers (they should have made one of them the lead), but she struggled at the end with a couple of solos. Her performance reminded me of Marlon Brandow in Guys and Dolls, great actor but lousy singer. The men were not great either, but yet for them it seemed to work. I thought the casting of Sophia was perfect. She not only was very pretty, but sang amazingly. My guess is we will be seeing more of her in the future. Even with some bad singing, this was a very fun movie that I would recommend for everyone.

I will get back to some historical topics soon, but till then I hope everyone enjoys their summer.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy 4th of July

In the early morning of July 4th 1776, after months of grueling work during a hot Pennsylvania summer a small group of the finest men in the British American colonies finally came to an agreement on the Declaration of Independence. It had taken some time for the colonists to even agree to independence, but while the congress was debating a five man committee was appointed to write a declaration just incase: Roger Sherman, Robert Livingston, Ben Franklin, John Adams, and the man that would write the document, Thomas Jefferson. What is most interesting about the timing of writing a declaration is that America was already at war. When the Congress met and began debating, colonists and the British had already exchanged fire, first at the battle of Concord and Lexington and then at Bunker Hill.

This declaration is one of the finest documents ever written and I believe even inspired. It not only changed the course of this nation's history, but of the world. It introduced the world to new concepts:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It would take over a hundred years and another war, but Jefferson introduced the concept that all men were created equal. America was founded on the principle that men would be judged by their own merit and not by who their father was; America would not have an aristocracy. This first line would change the course of human events more than any political document.

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” This line went against centuries of government theory. Basing his argument on the writings of John Locke, Jefferson challenged that Kings received their power from God. Locke argued that man had lived in the state of nature, where the stronger ruled by sheer might. Men agreed to sacrifice some freedom in order to establish governments that could protect them. Government agreed that with their new power they would protect the people they now governed. In other words man and government made a contract, so government derived their power from the people who consented to it. Jefferson was saying that governments could not impose their will over people, but must instead answer to them.

“That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.” This line was at the heart of why Jefferson wrote the Declaration. Even though we were already at war, we still needed to convince the American colonists that what we were proposing to do, revolution, was justifiable. The main body of the Declaration was Jefferson giving a list grievances of the British not so much for the British sake, but more for the benefit of the colonists. Jefferson had to show that Britain had broken the contract.

Where Jefferson broke from what most were writing, is that Jefferson focused his attack on the King. Up till then, most of colonial rage was focused on Parliament. If you read the Declaration of Independence, and I suggest today that you do, notice that when he lists the objections, he begins each line with he … referring to the king. Only Jefferson’s last grievance was not directed towards the King, but instead to the British people. He blamed them for not aiding the colonist’s cause and allowing the King to suspend their rights.

Interesting, one objection that Jefferson put in the Declaration was removed. Jefferson blamed the Kings for beginning slavery. Of course southern colonists objected to any idea of slavery being wrong and so refused to approve the Declaration with any mention of slavery, so it was stricken.

The passing of the Declaration meant absolutely nothing, unless the colonists could win their freedom. The fact that a bunch of farmers could defeat the greatest empire in the world is truly remarkable. I believe God had a hand in the victory. God needed a land where the gospel could thrive.

I am so happy that I live in the land of the free and the home of the brave. I know our nation has gotten a black eye as of late, but we still are the greatest nation in the world. For all our faults, we are still the freest nation and are still judged on our own merits. I hope today we can put aside our differences and all can celebrate what is great about his nation. And as Jefferson wrote, “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

Thursday, July 3, 2008


1. I showed the original 1936 Mr. Deeds Goes to Town in class this week staring Gary Cooper and directed by Frank Capra. This movie is an example of my teaching techniques. I like showing movies because it gives my students a sense of what people were thinking at the time. This movie was made in the middle of the great depression and it shows how people were viewing the new deal. In the end of the movie, Deeds is on trial for wanting to give away his money, and he was being accused of being insane and ruining the economy and government foundations. If you get a chance to view the film, watch it through the eyes of the new deal and how people felt at the politics of the time.

2. Jake and I just finished the Time Machine by H. G. Wells. I know this is a Sci-fi classic but I was not too impressed. I have never understood the end, I understand he was trying to be mysterious, but I like when all the questions are answered at the end. Most movie adaptations have him returning to live with Weena at the end, but Wells mades no such hints in the book, in fact just the opposite. Also when you have a son who tends to get scared, reading a book about monsters that come out at night and eat people is not a wise choice in a bed time book. I had to constantly change the monsters into fun loving creatures who like to play games and act silly.

3. I do not understand the judges on Next Food Network Star. They ask contestants to simplify a dish that takes hours and days to make, but only give them 45 minutes. Then when the contestants give them a different version that is possible to make in the time, the judges complain that it is not the same as the original dish. What were the judges expecting. I thought all three dishes were very creative and generally had the same components as the original dish and was not that the idea. Outside of Bobby Flay you wonder if the saying holds, those that cannot do, judge.